Original Articles

Is Pakistan’s elected PM slightly less competent and way more corrupt than an average traffic cop?

Here is a quick comment on false neutrality which is a glaring feature of Mohammed Hanif’s recent article published in The Guardian.

In his apparent criticism of an overstepping and politically biased Supreme Court, Mohammed Hanif tries to maintain false neutrality and in this pursuit takes a dig at the vicitm, i.e., PM Gilani by describing him and other elected leaders as:

“slightly less competent and way more corrupt than our average traffic cop.”

Did anyone else notice the class bias against a traffic cop hidden in this insult? The statement is not only demeaning to an elected Prime Minister but also to an underpaid traffic cop who serves the nation in scorching heat and pouring rain.

Hanif further writes:

“Pakistanis are being forced to choose between Gilani’s right to rule without doing a thing for his people, and a supreme court judge’s right to send him home. And people are refusing to choose.”

Blatantly, Hanif omitted the following fact: the day (26 April 2012) Supreme Court gave judgement against elected Prime Minister Gilani, PPP candidate won in bye-elections in Multan on a traditionally PML N seat, and on the day (20 June 2012) when SC removed him from his post, PPP candidate won in Sanghar (Sindh) bye election with a margin of 49,000 votes.

What makes Hanif think that people are refusing to choose? Show some respect for democracy, at least feign!

Hanif alleges that Gilani did not do a thing for his people. Of course, he forgot to mention the restoration of 1973 constitution, Benazir Income Support Programme, renaming of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, empowerment to the people of Gilgit Baltistan province, successful anti-Taliban operation in Swat, anti-sexual harassment laws, among several other services of the democratic government to the people of Pakistan.

Of course, the current government is far from perfect, they failed to deliver on several fronts including but not limited to the energy crisis, but it will be equally unfair to ignore the incessant conspiracies which were woven against the civilian government by the 3-Jeem Mafia (Judiciary, Journalists, Jenerals) in the last four years.

Those false neutral journalists who are equating PPP’s alleged inefficiency or corruption with SC’s judicial dictatorship must reflect on their rationalization of CJ’s unconstitutional actions

Hanif claims:

“For a few days the country lacked a prime minister and a cabinet. And nobody really missed them.”

Of course, the 3-Js (i.e., Jenerals and the pro-generals journalists and judiciary) did not miss a PM and a cabinet. We did. 

Hanif needs a crash course in reality.  The judiciary’s unconstitutional act of dismissing an elected Prime Minister has thrown the budget into jeopardy and created further disruptions in an already troubled socio-political climate. From the re-opening of the NATO supply routes to the power crisis, Pakistan needs a stable government and not poorly-informed and flippant democracy-bashing by the likes of Hanif.

Most glaring “omission” in Hanif’s article is when he writes:

“The military… is watching from the sidelines.”

Which planet does he live on? Is not he aware of the role military played behind the scene, can a PM be disqualified without the army chief’s nod? Can an ANF brigadier engineer urgent arrest warrants for a PM designate without army chief’s approval?  Hanif deliberately omits mentioning Memogate where the Judiciary, once again, did the dirty work of the military establishment.  The public still remembers how this judiciary combined with the ISI to dismiss a  PPP-Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani.  Haqqani was supporting  President Zardari and former Prime Minister Gillani’s efforts to create civilian space in Pakistan. The reader can also refer to  ANALYSIS: Pakistan constitution in jeopardy —Tausif Kamal  to see that Judiciary-General alliance is thriving .  Clearly, either Hanif is either being naive or outright  dishonest when he says that military is on the sidelines.

Link to Mohammed Hanif’s 80-20 dishonest analysis of PM Gilani’s disqualification by ISI-backed judiciary: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/22/yousuf-raza-gilani-chief-justice-pakistan

Here are some links in response to Mohammed Hanif’s spurious claim that PPP/ PM Gilani did nothing for Pakistani people.

Did PPP implement its vision of Roti, Kapra, Makan? – by Raja Asad Abbas http://shar.es/sd7Ta

Pakistan Democracy Review 2009 – by Humza Ikram http://shar.es/sd7Pi

Pakistan Democracy Review 2010 http://shar.es/sduWO

Benazir Model Village – Sinawan – Splendid execution http://shar.es/sduJz

Why the PPP government is good for Pakistan – by Fauzia Wahab http://shar.es/sduCI

‘Gift of Life’: An important step for the lives of millions of Pakistanis – by Hafsa Khawaja http://shar.es/sdu6U

Some Unforgiven Crimes of Asif Ali Zardari -by Raja M Asad Abbas http://shar.es/sdu7G

Stellar yet sadly affronted accomplishments of PPP Government – by Dr. Zaeem Zia http://shar.es/sdusH

Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme – by Saad Hassan http://shar.es/sdurt

Previous links offer ample evidence that PPP govt’s services in last 4 years are much better than what’s being portrayed in mainstream media.  Here are some links that also highlight the severe constraints that are being faced by the PPP Government:

The PIA Problem by Nadir El Edroos

Has Democracy Delivered in Pakistan in Pakistan – by Babar Ayaz

ROVER’S DIARY: Knocking together a budget with no elbow room — Babar Ayaz

Do review the links to make an informed view, circulate them and confidently confront those who are repeating the corruption and efficiency mantra to malign a democratic government.

That is what urban pseudo-liberal writers are good at. They camouflage their contempt for the party of the poor (PPP) in the guise of “objective” analysis, maintaining a false neutrality between criticism of judiciary and “corrupt” politicians, giving clean chit to military (which is the puppet master behind Punjabi-dominated Supreme Court).

Incidentally, Hanif too comes from a military background.

Something worth reading when trying to get a better understanding than the false neutral analysis by Hanif is Ayesha Siddiqa’s ‘Ousting PM instead of Parliament is the new khaki tactic’

What urban pseudo-liberals usually write on behalf of Pakistani people is based on their own drawing room chatter and urban gossip. It rarely has any relevance to reality.

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri

16 Comments

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  • Pakistan’s CJ doesn’t wait for petitioners to come to the court, He watches TV and acts on own cognizance.

    This is too good.

    Yes, Hanif went overboard in trying to look neutral.

  • Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    Raja Pervez Ashraf’s first act as IT Minister was to ban twitter. Wonder what his first action as PM might be.

    21 Jun Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    Similarly Raja Pervez Ashraf – Many years of excellent work as minister for power means elevation to bigger role in Pakistan.

    21 Jun Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    Rehman Malik was detailed with Benazir’s security. After he did a great job, he was elevated to protecting the security of all citizens.

    21 Jun Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    In order to avoid futher drama a pledge of Writing a letter to the Swiss authorities should be part of the oath of the PM.

    21 Jun Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    Raja Parvez ki oath-taking ceremony kay dauran loadshedding honi chahiyay.

    21 Jun Samad Khurram ‏@SamadK
    Not how he stood by Sherry Rehman? RT @AseefaBZ: PM Gillani I will stand by you the way you stood by SMBB and President Zardari !

  • Between 1999 and 2000, I worked with Mohammed Hanif.He came across as a weak person who was always ready to compromise. He wasn’t a professional journalist either and was more interested in drama.Hanif had a very little understanding of politics.

  • Zardari bowls out opponents once again

    June 22nd, 2012
    by Omar Derawal

    Asif Ali Zardari has been underestimated from day one. The shrewd businessman has proved not only to be a master of the boardroom, but of political strategy as well. Nominating Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as Prime Minister after losing successive wickets appears his latest triumph. And, as with his previous deliveries, this one too seems to have outwitted the opposition.

    Nawaz Sharif termed Raja Pervaiz’s election as ‘tragedy’, but perhaps the PML-N chief was thinking of his own political fortunes. After all, Raja Pervaiz was born in Sindh and speaks Sindhi, but he was elected in Punjab. Even the carefully staged energy riots look a little bit awkward with a new Prime Minister who, as Minister of Water and Power, added more Megawatts to the national grid than anyone since the government of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

    Imran Khan too seems to have been outplayed in this innings as he finds himself with a Vice-Chairman from a feudal family while Asif Zardari has a Prime Minister who rose through party ranks from a middle class background. By nominating Raja Pervaiz, Zardari has also neutralised Khan’s nationalistic appeals to security hawks. Though a liberal himself, Raja Pervaiz is strong on national security. In his first speech as PM, he declared that there can be no peace in Pakistan without peace in Afghanistan, sending a clear signal that the government continues to be united on defending Pakistan’s priorities.

    Qamar Zaman Kaira’s stellar performances on talk shows had many PPP supports hoping he would pull off a surprise win, but it’s Kaira’s unmatched ability to silence the chattering heads that made him indispensable as Information Minister. Some suggested the name of Hina Rabbani Khar, too – but her deft handling of foreign affairs means that she too is more needed where she is. What is impressive about this debate among PPP supporters is that despite losing such figures as Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Husain Haqqani, Yousaf Gilani, and Makhdoom Shahabuddin, PPP still has such a deep line-up from which to draw new players.

    Politics is a test match – not T20. You have to play a long term strategy if you want to win. Zardari’s opposition thought they could force him to retire early, but he proved too skilled for that. Now they are praying for a draw. But with this latest innings, Zardari has shown once again it’s the opposition who is still chasing.

    http://new-pakistan.com/2012/06/22/zardari-bowls-out-opponents-once-again/

  • Paracha sahib,

    I think you have hit the nail on the head. Mohammad Hanif is a good novelist. However, his understanding of politics in Pakistan is weak and riddled with the same biases that are common amongst the rabidly anti-PPP English speaking elites. Given his own semi-rural background, he also comes across as somewhat desperate to seek the approval of his more urbane friends and what better way than a factually-deficient roasting of the PPP.

  • http://babarayaz.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/has-democracy-delivered-daily-times/

    Has democracy delivered (Daily Times)

    Has democracy delivered in Pakistan?

    Babar Ayaz

    The quick and pithy answer, which may not satisfy any TV anchor, would be ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. In a society where we see the world in ‘black’ and ‘white’ this answer is not satisfactory. To get to the right answer we would need an analytical paper of some length or a whole seminar. Most of the people who generally raise this question in a disgusting tone have no stamina for reading research papers, books or indulging in serious discourse.

    But as this question has been asked by many friends and some of my young readers I would attempt to answer it succinctly.

    A point to be noted here is that any particular government should not be confused with democracy. Democracy is a system which provides for electing the government and the opposition. And if they do not deliver they can be removed as prescribed in the constitution. The constitution is supposed to be the consensus bible guiding this system in any society. Rarely in the political history of Pakistan has a government elected through a democratic process lasted for four years. This government has the distinction to survive these tumultuous four years and is perhaps going to complete its tenure minus or plus a few months. Bhutto completed his term but was removed through a military coup violating the constitution. Musharraf’s government cannot be classified as democratic government.

    To get the right perspective let’s take a pause and analyse the society we live in.

    First, it has to be understood that economically and socially Pakistani society is multi-structural and multi-ethno linguistic. The structure of the society has a direct bearing on the level of democracy or even dictatorship in any country. While most critics of democracy in Pakistan undermine this hard fact, there are many who argue that given the low literacy rate, tribal and quasi-feudal structure of the society democracy is not suitable for our country. Now this is urban middle-class intellectual snobbery and insult to the 60% rural population of Pakistan. History, of even partially fair elections, has shown that people have given votes to the parties and their local leaders who they felt would be useful for them.

    Second, there are those who want to see revolutionary changes notwithstanding the fact that democracy evolves it does not give you overnight solutions. Such a revolution would be desirable but at present Pakistan has to go through the evolutionary process of democracy. One reason that it has not delivered as much as it could have is that it was interrupted and mauled many times — directly and indirectly — by the military.

    Third, in the absence of a democratic dispensation the institutions of the state did not get enough time to find the right equilibrium, hence the present scramble for more space in the power structure. This tussle for more power between the normal institutions of the state power i.e. executive, judiciary and the parliament is not letting the system which is in its infancy to stablise. Unlike many other countries where democracy has evolved, in Pakistan military has been a dominant power and has refused to accept the supremacy of any elected civilian government. This factor has played an obstructive role in the development of democracy and has created distortions.

    Fifth, Pakistan has always concentrated on its geo-strategic position from military perspective and India phobia. This embroiled the country in regional disputes with devastating social, economic and political consequences. People of Pakistan and the region could have been benefitted much more had its rulers exploited the geo-strategic position of the country for economic growth. We could have become a peaceful neutral hub of business connecting east to the west and prospered in leaps and bound.

    Sixth, the global and historical perspective is important to assess the success and failure of democracy. In India many governments changed in the 90s because the coalitions fell apart. Nobody questioned the efficacy of democracy and the constitutional process was followed. At present coalition partners play a hard ball with the majority party and take their pound of flesh. Nobody blames democracy for all the noises and bargaining in the parliament.

    Even the oldest Westminster democracy is going through these pangs. The United Kingdom is faced with question of separation of Scotland. They have offered to hold a referendum on this issue as the Canadians did on the Quebec issue. Nobody said that they will send the British troops for protecting the national integrity and the military has not toppled the government. That is the civilised and democratic way of settling disputes and difference of opinion, in sharp contrast to what our establishment is doing in Balochistan. Left to the politicians this issue can be resolved amicably with the Baloch dissidents.

    Now for a change first look at what democracy has delivered. It helped the bloodless ouster of a military general by the politicians. A great leap forward was taken towards transfer of power and resources from the center to the provinces through the 18th Amendment and NFC Award something which we could not do in 64 years. Arbitrary presidential powers to oust an elected government and dissolve the assemblies were taken away. Press freedom which some people use to show their disappointment with democracy is an integral part of the same democracy. The opposition which is a part of any democratic dispensation is playing a positive role in the parliament and outside.

    The political parties have matured and stand united against any unconstitutional intervention, a great proof of democracy at work. Only fools who don’t know about the responsible role an opposition is supposed to play are taunting the PML (N) as friendly opposition.

    Valid argument of the critics of democracy is that how these constitutional changes and new formula of division of resources between center and provinces is going to help the common man? Here teething pains and poor handling of the transfer of ministries and resources both by federal and provincial governments has to be criticised. But gradually these problems would be solved as it is in the interest of the provincial governments. This would help in bringing power closer to the people and development decisions would be made at the provincial level. It would be easier for the people to hold their leader accountable at the provincial level instead of running to Islamabad for everything.

    However, the biggest failure of all the provincial governments is that the power and resources have not been devolved by them to the local governments. This issue gets very little coverage in our media although it is more crucial for the people than the much-talked about corruption.

    On the governance side it is right that the real issues of the people are terrorism, religious extremism and sectarian and ethnic killings, poor law and order situation and providing better governance in all government institutions. These issues have not cropped up because of democracy they have been piled up because democracy was not allowed to function in this society. It is the democratic consensus that gave strength to the armed forces to fight the terrorists. It is the consensus developed by all leading political parties, that is challenging religious extremism and cutting across the sectarian divide.

    Failure to control the law and order and poor governance is not the failure of democracy. Many countries are faced with these problems but there the government is blamed for its poor management, instead of questioning whether the country should have democracy or not. The solution lies in democracy which allows voters to push their elected representatives to perform. And if they fail to do that, voters are free not to elect them again. In contrast in a dictatorship neither can you push the bureaucrats and nor can you dislodge them through vote.

    Major failures for which the present coalition government is criticised are: corruption, energy, increased unemployment, high inflation, low tax revenue collection, public sector hemorrhaging impact on economy; depreciation of rupee against dollar by 7.08% since January 2010; falling foreign direct investment, ; and low GDP growth,.

    Is this a failure of democracy? No. It is failure of the coalition government but partially. To be less charitable to them it can be said that their omissions and commissions have played a larger part than the objective economic constraints which would have squeezed any government in their place.

    The burden of checking corruption which has affected the development work and delivery in the social sector has to be borne by the present government. There was no attempt to check it in spite of a howling rage of the media. But here we should not forget that corruption has been there even in undemocratic regimes.

    Energy crisis is not a doing of the present government it was very clear as early as late 2004. Top government bosses had realised that by 2010 we will have a 5000 MW shortage during peak hours. They started on the mission to attract the foreign investors. But the approval process was slow and the bureaucracy was too afraid to approve projects as the private sector was asking for 8-9 cents a unit. This delayed investment in power sector.

    People tend to forget that it was Benazir’s elected government that opened up investment in the power sector with its model investment policy. It was because of that policy that today almost 35% of electricity is produced by the IPPs. There was more investment in the pipeline but Nawaz Sharif’s government changed the policy and harassed the investors away.

    Many drawing room critics blame democracy for not harnessing the indigenous coal. The fact is otherwise, Benazir had brought in investors in her first government, but as she was dismissed in about 18 months or so. It was during Musharraf’s era that I witnessed the Babus of the Ministry of Water and Power sabotaging the Thar coal project because they were not willing to give away power to the province to exploit its coal reserves and produce power.

    It is under a democratic government now that the issue of control over these resources has been sorted out in the 18th Amendment with the opposition’s consensus. As a result progress has been made on the coal-power projects. It is under a democratic dispensation that Bhasha Dam consensus has emerged and work has started.

    Another issue is that of the shortage of natural gas, this was also clear during the previous government that CNG splurging of gas is not sustainable. There are only three options to meet the gas shortage: import through pipeline which is a long term solution; import of LPG can ease some pressure in a shorter time frame; and raise the gas price to attract more investment in the exploration and production of oil and gas resources of Pakistan. As a matter of fact all these are not either and or options, all these measures will have to be taken simultaneously. The stand taken by the government to import gas from Iran is daring. But let’s hope that we do not buckle under the US pressure and move away from it. A democratic government can withstand this pressure better than a dictatorial one. In all these options people have to understand that oil and gas is becoming expensive internationally, so the people who blame democracy for higher prices should read the international market trend. No country around the world would be able to subsidise energy in future, unless it is a huge producer of oil & gas – like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE.

    Unemployment is increasing because of a number of factors. The population growth rate is still unsustainable and this is our chronic problem. The fragmentation of agricultural land by natural course inheritance and mechanization of farming is pushing the rural surplus labour to the cities. In the cities because of the security situation and constant efforts to destablise the democratic system has slowed down investment in new projects so not enough jobs are being created. At the same time we should keep in mind the global perspective. The developed economies have a larger unemployment ratio than Pakistan.

    Similarly inflation is also a global phenomenon. The world food prices are rising roughly by 30 % a year and same is the case of oil prices. Yes, this is hurting the poor but the answer is not demanding lower commodity prices because it also hurts the agriculture producers who employ 42% of the workforce. Keeping to the policy introduced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, all PPP governments had tried to make policies that lead to transfer of money from urban to the rural areas. The policy has paid in terms of higher cash crops production. This government has done the same as a result purchasing power in rural areas has increased. Middle class professionals who shed tears on rural poverty should be happy. But the flip side of this policy is increased price pressure on the urban poor. The fine balance was not mainained.

    Don’t forget the burden of the ongoing war against terrorists, rehabilitation of internally displaced people and two major floods in a row.

    The government had failed to impose the Regulatory General Sales Tax because of MQM and PML (N) resistance. Both are parties with strong support of the bazaar. But it has to be remembered that even General Zia and Musharraf governments failed to tame the tax evaders. So democracy cannot be blamed for this, weak resolve of the successive governments is the real cause.

    Agreed that the landless peasants and wage workers are still being exploited but this issue is not debated in the drawing rooms and talk show studios. To bring change to begin with our attack should be against the growing inequality and non-implementation of labour laws for the agriculture workers. Unfortunately the democracy-busters do not join the struggle against inequality and exploitation. All they do is blame democracy and politicians from their air-conditioned offices, waiting for a benevolent dictator Messiah. ayazbabar@gmail.com

  • ROVER’S DIARY: Corruption in socio-economic perspective — I — Babar Ayaz

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C05%5C15%5Cstory_15-5-2012_pg3_5

    In times of military dictatorship, curbs on the media and a compliant judiciary do not play up corruption cases as they do when there is democracy in the country

    Many years ago, I saw a movie in which Peter Sellers played the lead. I do not remember the name but it was not one of the Pink Panther series. It was about how hospitals and doctors fleece patients in the US. It had a unique indemnifying statement that instead of saying all characters were fictitious, it said all characters were real and that if anybody had any resemblance to any of them he should stand up.

    There was a time not many years ago when Pakistan competed with Nigeria for the most corrupt country of the world. At that point, it was at the bottom of the Transparency International pit. Now the 2010 report places Pakistan at the134th rung out of 182 countries. Should we rejoice that from being the most corrupt country we are today 48th from the bottom? Are we any better than what we were a few years back or 42 countries have slipped down to being worse than us? Perhaps the latter is true.

    The10 least corrupt countries in order of their ranking are New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and Canada. And the 10 most corrupt countries from the bottom are Somalia, North Korea, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Iraq, Haiti and Venezuela.

    According to The Economist, there is an interesting correlation between the levels of corruption and the status of the Human Development Index (HDI). The least corrupt have the best HDI and the most corrupt the worst. Even a cursory look at the least and most corrupt countries shows that there is also a correlation between corruption and the level of poverty, absence of democracy and internal instability.

    In a democratic dispensation, there are better checks and balances in the form of a free media and independent courts. In our case, these institutions play their watchdog role but at times they are rather overzealous and present something as the one and only important challenge to Pakistani society. That is where balance is lost but as this is the popular theme, everybody wants to ride it in the race for breaking news and headlines, the judiciary included.

    In times of military dictatorship, curbs on the media and a compliant judiciary do not play up corruption cases as they do when there is democracy in the country. Undoubtedly, the media has to continue exposing corruption, but without perspective and responsibility, disproportionate coverage creates the perception that democracy breeds corruption and the elected representatives are the most corrupt people in comparison to those who ruled us under military dictators. It also gives an impression as if corruption is something new and unique in Pakistani society.

    Here I am reminded of a short impressionistic piece from my late father Shahzada Ayaz’s book, Chota mun bari baat published in 1952. After lamenting on how corruption was rampant, he concluded: “Mujeh dar hey khahin merey qaum ka kirdar looteroun ka na bun jayae” (I fear my nation’s character may turn into looters).

    Why is corruption a part of our society? The dominant culture and value system of Pakistan when it was established was feudal and tribal. The basis of the economy was agrarian. The Mughal and British Raj allotted land and power based on loyalty and not in accordance with any transparent PPRA rules.

    What is called corruption in the modern middle class and capitalist society was not perceived from the same angle in the rural areas and that is the reason the same corrupt people are elected repeatedly. As long as they can get their work done at the grassroots level by buying services, the level of resentment against corruption is not as high as it is in the urban areas, particularly in the middle classes.

    At the same time, there was a big influx of refugees in the country who were either economic migrants or were pushed out because of communal riots. Without meaning any offence to refugees, let us understand that globally such a large migration of uprooted people has the tendency to grab economic opportunities as quickly as possible. This tendency was also seen in the filing of highly inflated claims by refugees. In a lighter vein, it can be said that if all claims are added, the total area could be more than that of the subcontinent! This scramble for land also infused corruption in society in which the state had the power to bestow agricultural lands and urban properties.

    It is interesting that the Pakistani business classes, who crib about corruption in their posh offices, grew after partition. According to Mr S M Jamil, the first General Secretary of the Muslim Chamber of Commerce in India, a few months before partition Mr Jinnah had asked him to convene a meeting quickly to appeal to the Muslim businessmen to invest in Pakistan. The meeting was held in Bombay and most of them expressed their readiness but had only one concern, “Will the source of investment be asked by the authorities and taxed?” When Mr Jinnah was informed about their concern, he instructed Jamil to discuss this with Ghulam Mohammed, who assured that no questions would be asked. Interestingly, this issue comes up cyclically in Pakistan. Even now, an ‘amnesty’ for black money is being considered in the coming budget while the moralists are opposing it.

    The Pakistani business class in the 1950s was mainly composed of traders that accumulated capital by all fair and foul means with the patronage of government officials who ruled through the ‘licence Raj’. Thus its growth was dependent on getting favours from the civil bureaucracy, which issued licences in an over-regulated economy. Even for the expansion of a factory, the investment promotion bureau and ministry of industries had to be bribed.

    With liberalisation, there are now many businesses that do not seek favours from government and manage to avoid corrupt practices as much as they can. This economic culture should be kept in perspective while analysing corruption today. Any society’s moral and cultural values are related to the level of its economic development. Global experience shows that developing countries had and still have a higher level of corruption as compared to manageable developed economies. The 10 least corrupt countries have also another commonality — they are welfare states.

    First, let us briefly define ‘corruption’ as it is perceived today by economists and political analysts. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Politics, “Corruption obtains when an official transfers a benefit to an individual who may or may not be entitled to the benefit, in exchange for an illegal payment (the bribe). By taking the bribe, the official breaks a legal binding he gave to his ‘principal’.” It further says, “A positive relation appears to exist between the extent of bribery and the ‘level of red tape’…”

    Two social scientists, Donatella Della Porta and Yves Meny in their excellent book, Democracy and Corruption in Europe say, “Corruption can be initially defined as the clandestine exchange between two markets; the political and/or administrative market and the economic and social market.”

    Corruption perhaps has been the oldest evil that has existed in human society. In most religions, offerings and charity are given to get some return from the gods one worships. However, the issue has come under the spotlight, particularly after the end of the Cold War. Before that, the capitalist democracies were only critical of corruption in the socialist countries and they would cover up their own follies. However, once the fear that people might get attracted to an alternate socialist politico-economic system fell with the Berlin wall, the western democracies became introspective about the ills within.

    Corruption in developing and developed countries is not only the exclusive domain of politicians and government officials, as it appears from the present uproar in the media in Pakistan, but multi-billion corruption scandals in the west have brought down famous banks and companies and the worst recessions. In Pakistan, the media industry is also well aware of the corrupt practices of their owners, advertising agencies and even multinational brand managers. The irony is that the same people sermonise ad nauseam about politicians’ and government officials’ corruption — forgetting that only the pious who have not sinned can cast the first stone.

    (To be continued)

    The writer can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail.com

  • http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C06%5C05%5Cstory_5-6-2012_pg3_6

    ROVER’S DIARY: Knocking together a budget with no elbow room — Babar Ayaz

    The greater challenge for this government now is that while foreign assistance and investment inflow is drying up quickly, outflow is going up as payment time has arrived

    A senior educationist in our university days, back in the late 1960s, once said that a person who is cursed by both parents becomes the president of Pakistan. And yet there is a long list of aspirants who would give their right arm to get this position. If not by both parents, at least you have to be cursed by one of them to become the finance minister of Pakistan.

    But wait a minute, let’s get our perspective right. There is hardly any country in the developing and developed world where the finance minister’s job is not cursed. The global recession and the mess created by financial institutions because of unlimited freedom given under the neo-liberal mantra that everything should be left to the gods of the free market, is now casting a shadow on the vibrant Chinese and Indian economies also.

    The Finance Minister, Dr Hafeez Shaikh, landed himself in the post he had always coveted in March 2010 when a frustrated Shaukat Tareen bowed out, as he was not allowed to implement his reform agenda.

    All the finance and economic pundits agreed that the biggest challenge for Dr Shaikh would be the headwind, which is traditionally blown by political colleagues. Though he was no novice to a government job, his last assignment as the minister for privatisation did not bring him to cross swords with parliamentarians as he had to now. And perhaps quite often.

    Dr Shaikh is not the first finance minister who has not been able to deliver because of little financial elbowroom and the unrealistic political considerations of successive governments. A cursory look at our finance ministers’ history shows that starting from the socialist Dr Mubashar Hasan, the political leaderships have given a tough time to all, with the exception of the all-powerful Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK). His babu mentality set the economy on a dangerous path of heavy domestic borrowing to meet non-productive current expenditure. It was evident even in the mid-1980s that domestic borrowing was a ticking bomb in Islamabad. But he angrily dismissed it when I raised the issue in Dawn. Today, it has blown up in our faces.

    Dr Mahbubul Haq, who was the man with new ideas, had two brief stints as finance minister but was opposed by GIK and couldn’t do much except opening up a strict foreign exchange domain. He was the first one to fail in implementing sales tax at a retail level when the Lahore and Karachi bazaar went on strike. In between, even the government of General Musharraf made many attempts. So if the present government retreated after announcing Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) because the political parties that have the bazaar, the MQM and PML-N, revolted, it is unsurprising.

    During the PML-N’s two governments, Sartaj Aziz and Ishaq Dar were also not able to present any innovative budget that could boost revenues and the investment ratio. The ‘gentleman’ Sartaj Aziz was hooted by some of his colleagues. In the first few years of Musharraf’s regime, Shaukat Aziz did bring in some reforms, but his success owed much to the foreign debt repayment relief given by donors after 9/11.

    Dr Shaikh served as an able finance minister of Sindh when he first entered politics. But this time he took a bigger responsibility at the Centre, when the official economy was being squeezed trilaterally. In this environment, with no fiscal and political room, he has been just muddling through for the last three years.

    Before attacking the budget, analysts must take into account at least five major factors. One, the country is almost in a civil war, facing unabated terrorist attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Balochistan. The commercial hub of Pakistan has been destabilised by the militant wings of parties. Two, the volatile regional situation has sucked Pakistan deeper into a quagmire because of its foolish national security and foreign policy. Three, foreign assistance and investment has shrunk because of our so-called national pride policy. Four, most importantly, government is too weak to take up any courageous economic reforms; and five, the country has seen two major floods in the last four years.

    So in this situation what should be expected from the finance minister who is beleaguered from every direction but to present a budget with a huge fiscal deficit? The outgoing year has already shown a deficit of 7.4 percent, when all the subsidies of the power and public sector organisations are taken into account. For 2012-13, he wishes 4.7 percent, but that is based, of course, on the assumption that the economy will grow by over 4.5 percent, and it does not include the future burden of public sector enterprises and power sector circular debt.

    The greater challenge for this government now is that while foreign assistance and investment inflow is drying up quickly, outflow is going up as payment time has arrived. In this situation, current account deficit balancing would be extremely difficult, particularly when our chest-thumping nationalists tell us to be tough with the US. What does that mean for people? The rupee to fall further against major foreign currencies, leading to high import costs and consequently, high inflation.

    As always, much of the federal government’s development budget is to be financed through domestic and foreign borrowings. This being an election year, the political government would disallow any tough measures against the tax-evaders. They even backed out from a very genuine reform that businesses should enter the NTN or CNIC number of people they do business with or make payments to. The unscrupulous chambers had the gall to protest that it was not possible and the weak government buckled.

    So what is keeping Pakistan’s overall economy afloat? According to studies done by micro-economists, the size of a parallel or black economy is almost 50 percent of the GDP. It is this sector that has been doing well, come what may. The other factor is that agriculture has performed well, in spite of all the challenges. Some credit can be given to government also, which has taken measures like higher support prices and subsidised fertilizer. The urban-based, urban-biased politicians and media consciously undermine the fact that there has been a huge transfer of money from the urban to rural areas, where 60 percent of Pakistanis live. On the other hand, because of the high level of a black economy, Pakistan cannot increase its domestic savings rate unless all tax-evaders are pulled into the tax net through a carrot and stick policy.

    Another major challenge to Pakistan is energy sector mismanagement, which caused a loss of over two percent growth in GDP. The country is not that short of electricity-generation capacity but it is suffering from electricity theft, non-payment of bills by public and private sector consumers, low pricing and lack of investment in the maintenance of the existing power generation and distribution system. To put the house in order, we need zero tolerance for theft and non-payment of bills to begin with. This needs a strong political will, something that the government is devoid of.

    Lastly, Dr. Shaikh’s predecessor Tareen had left an unfinished agenda. It was related to improving governance, which is neglected by government; adopting austerity measures by streamlining the government set up, which has too many ministries and divisions; push privatisation of a loss-making public sector, which is sucking the taxpayers’ money; and as said earlier, implement tax reforms to improve the tax to GDP ratio. However, because of the impending elections, this government has announced that there will be no more privatisation.

    What does the entire exercise show? Political expediency and weaknesses are costing billions of rupees to the economy and slowing down our growth.

    The writer can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail.com

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/9380/the-pia-problem/

    The PIA problem

    December 21, 2011

    Rumour has it that PIA is purposely being run into the ground to benefit the President’s sister Faryal Talpur.

    This article is not written with the intent of defending President Asif Ali Zardari or his party.It aims to illustrate how the hyper personalisation of politics and governance in Pakistan has created unachievable expectations for quick fixes, based on overly simplistic explanations of state failure.

    Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is an illustration of perhaps the biggest disservice the president has done for his country; he allowed himself to become a lightning rod for every explanation of state failure. By explaining the poor performance of the state to the person who occupies the Presidency, we overlook the many structural, underlying and historical reasons that perpetuate state failure.

    The dominant narrative which explains the mess that PIA is currently stuck in, is that the national carrier is purposely being run into the ground so that Indus Airway, linked to the president’s sister Faryal Talpur, can benefit. In fact, it appears that Abdul Wahab, the man behind Karakoram Motors is the lead investor in Indus Air.

    Last week, news report claimed that PIA had grounded 18 planes. A passage read:

    On Wednesday, a Riyadh-bound flight from Lahore was just cancelled only because a 9-volt battery, used to operate one of its emergency gates, was found out of order, provoking the passengers who vent their anger on the airport administration.

    I am not sure about everybody else, but if this happens with me, I would want my plane to be grounded when its most crucial component that facilitating emergency exits is out-of-order. Granted, PIA could do a better job to replace the offending part on time and improve preventative maintenance. However, given the news, Facebook and Twitter lit up with commentary on how PIA is purposefully sabotaging and compromising its own aircraft to serve the president’s interests.

    A couple of months ago, rumours circulated that the increased frequency of emergency landings by PIA were being orchestrated to tarnish its image and reputation. Investigation should be carried out to find out if poor maintenance and incompetence has led to an increase in emergencies. Why would experienced pilots risk not only their lives and licenses but also the lives of their crew and passengers by “orchestrating” emergency landings?

    PIA faces many challenges like global economic depression, rising fuel costs, stiff competition, massive labour costs and inefficient vendor supply chains, to name a few. It also has to deal with the recruitment of skilled staff to Gulf carriers while there is a drought in airline financing and the poor image of Pakistan negatively affecting its ability to attract passengers from other countries. It’s ironic when an airline cannot upload an accurate destination map. And it doesn’t help either when the MD of that company states that: “pilgrims should be thankful for travelling in aircraft, rather than on camels”!

    However these issues, incident by incident are overlooked and reduced to the now ubiquitous explanation that PIA’s failures are a result of Zardari’s greed.

    PIA is managed under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the MoD for all practical purposes is under the influence of the military. Does the cosy relationship between the regulator, the CAA and PIA not lead to a conflict of interests? Speaking of the military, why do we overlook how the military run NLC has contributed to the railway’s decline?

    Zardari and the PPP are rightly criticised for mismanagement and poor governance. However, decisions that influence the well being of the state organisations or require the allocation of tax payers resources must be made on the basis of a rational and impassioned analysis. Not doing so creates the illusion that only PPP’s exit will lead to an improvement and also imposes improbable expectations on the government that will follow.

    Whoever comes into power after Zardari will have to meet the expectations of a society which has been made to believe that every ill faced by the nation is the result of the greed and incompetence of one individual. A nation misinformed by political parties, commentators and the media, is then unable to accept the necessary reforms that our state owned enterprises require. Will getting rid of the PPP and Zardari be enough?

  • On Mohammed Hanif’s glowing tribute to Taiban’s poetry. Long live pseudo-liberals and their inclinations:

    omar ali ‏@omarali50
    @mohammedhanif on mother tongues http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=hub230612Mohammed.asp

    14h Mohammad Taqi ‏@mazdaki
    @omarali50 his glowing tribute to Taliban poetry could lead one to believe @mohammedhanif commands prowess in Pashto also

    13h omar ali ‏@omarali50
    @mazdaki @mohammedhanif may have got carried away with left-liberal groupthink. We all do that. He is usually saner/wiser than many of us.

    13h Mohammad Taqi ‏@mazdaki
    @omarali50 Tuhaday zaati machalkay te chorr denay aaN 🙂 @mohammedhanif

    13h omar ali ‏@omarali50
    @mazdaki @mohammedhanif Meri kee haisiyat! but its true, i am a fan.

    13h Mohammad Taqi ‏@mazdaki
    @omarali50 I am a fan too but obviously differ with that blurb. Doesn’t take away from @mohammedhanif has done

    6:25 PM – 22 Jun 12 via web · Details
    13h mohammedhanif ‏@mohammedhanif
    @mazdaki @omarali50 sir as they say in Karachi: ahsanaat. Zamanat da shukriya

  • respect for democracy????

    Huh, that democracy wiped the well being of common citizen of Pakistan. (I am also a common citizen, who don’t get enough electricity supply besides paying timely bills of 4k-8k per month)

    That democracy which is putting Rehman Malik, Zardari, Nawaz, Altaf, Shuja-at???? What have they done for the country?? They can’t even write a letter to Swiss to claim back the money of Pakistani People??? Shameless creatures!!

    That democracy which is making people mad on the roads as they are torching the government / civil properties?? the houses of ELECTED MNA’s???

    That democracy which f.up PIA, Railway, Steel Mill, Banks, the circular debt, the printing of abnormal quantity of extra currency notes, the biggest public debt taker in history of Pakistan??

    Who want that democracy? Only the people at LUBP. Believe me, every one on road is abusing your leaders. Please zara road pe nikal k daikho.

  • When you take an oath of a public office, you promise to serve the people and not your party.

  • A response to Zubair, Yes, that would be the ideal situation but you don’t usually include politics in that setting. However, politics has an ability to cross lines and even hurt people in the most savage way. Only rare ones do what they ought to do and without party bias.

  • Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running
    off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or
    something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to
    let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon.
    Kudos